4, Including Couple, Presumed Dead in Barclay Friends Senior Home Inferno - NBC 10 Philadelphia

4, Including Couple, Presumed Dead in Barclay Friends Senior Home Inferno

The late Thursday fire was intense and spread quickly through the personal care wing of the West Chester, Pennsylvania facility

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Look Into Barclay Senior Community Fire

    NBC10's Denise Nakano is talking to a man who witnessed the fire that destroyed much of the Barclay Senior Living Community in West Chester from his backyard.

    (Published Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017)

    Four people, including a couple, living in a West Chester, Pennsylvania, senior community ravaged by a five-alarm inferno last week are now presumed dead.

    Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said Monday the four were "not saved."

    Investigators are sifting through the rubble of the Barclay Friends Senior Living Community in an attempt to recover their bodies.

    “The victims are everyone’s parents and grandparents,” Hogan said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the missing folks.”

    Officials have not yet revealed the identities of the four residents. A spokesperson for Barclay wrote in a letter that the four victims are a couple and two single residents.

    "Members of the Barclay Friends team have met personally with the three families most affected by this horrific loss," the spokesperson wrote. "We will provide as much support as possible for these families as they deal with this unimaginable tragedy."

    The fire erupted shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday as most of the 137 residents were sleeping. The blaze started in the back of one of the buildings, ripped through the center and all the way to the ceiling, creating a "raging inferno," Hogan said.

    Flames tore through the senior living community's personal care wing with such speed that some of the nearly 400 first responders rushed into the building without securing their breathing equipment.

    Several firefighters described their helmets melting and cracking from the intense heat.

    Chester County DA Tom Hogan holds a helmet that was worn by a firefighter battling an intense blaze at the Barclay Friends senior home last Thursday. The helmet began to melt and crack from the intense heat, Hogan said.
    Photo credit: NBC10

    Most of the residents were bedridden or in wheelchairs. Senior home staff and outside neighbors rushed from room to room in the facility, wrapping residents in blankets and sweeping them out in to the frigid night in wheelchairs and even in beds.

    One of the elderly women rescued is the aunt of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent-in-Charge Don Robinson, who is spearheading a team of more than 60 investigators. She is safe with relatives, but Robinson said it's a reminder of how many community members were touched by the fire.

    “We’ve all got a piece of this,” he said. “We’re depending on each other and we will be here as long it takes to get some answers for the families."

    Paramedics took 27 residents to nearby hospitals for treatment. Some of the injuries were described by authorities as "serious." Eight residents are still hospitalized as of Monday afternoon, authorities said.

    Of those that were rescued without injury, 102 have been placed in other facilities and 31 have been taken in by family members.

    Seniors Flee Inferno at Chester Co. Senior Living CommunitySeniors Flee Inferno at Chester Co. Senior Living Community

    The cause of the fire remains unclear. ATF investigators have made attempts through the weekend to enter the destroyed wing, but their efforts were hampered by unsafe conditions and high winds Sunday.

    Parts of the complex burned for more than 24 hours and unstable walls teetered over the scene.

    Last year, state health officials cited Barclay Friends and its owner Kendal with fire safety violations, including a failure to maintain corridor smoke doors. The violations were recorded in the facility's nursing home section, which was not touched by fire.

    A provisional license status for the nursing home was lifted in February following a new inspection, but at least one fire safety violation remained, state records showed.